Dale Yu: Review of Ravensburger Escape Puzzles (spoiler free*)
I was first introduced to the Ravenburger Escape Puzzle line (then called the Exit Puzzle series) back on October 27, 2018 – https://opinionatedgamers.com/2018/10/27/dale-yu-friday-report-from-essen/. The press package at the Ravensburger Play and Lunch included a copy for each of us. We had a pretty decent time with this first puzzle, but frankly, I kind of forgot about them as they weren’t being released in the US.
Come 2020, Ravensburger USA has a whole line of these jigsaw puzzles available at Target and other major retailers – affiliate link: https://amzn.to/2MDsjWY. The concept of all these puzzles is the same. You start by putting together the 759-piece jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle is pretty similar to most of the puzzles you are used to, though there are some curious features. The most obvious one is that the outer border is very regimented. All of the non corner pieces are one of two identical shapes, and this means that you can assemble the outer border in whichever way you want. I mean, I’d recommend trying to match the art – but all the pieces will fit together with the others due to the piece uniformity. You’ll also notice that all of the edge pieces have numbers written on them, some fainter than others. Second, you don’t get a finished picture to work from. The image on the puzzle itself will be similar to that seen on the box, but it will not be identical.
You also get a small instruction booklet that gives you a one or two paragraph story, explaining the mysteries that need to be solved. Most importantly, the rule sheet tells you exactly how many puzzles are to be found. Finally, there is a sealed envelope which has the final answer to the puzzle and its mysteries.
So, find yourself a table, dump out the pieces and get to work! For those of you that aren’t aware, seeing a jigsaw from Ravensburger should not be unexpected – the company is one of the worldwide leaders in jigsaw puzzle production, and my guess is that the puzzles generate a significantly larger portion of overall revenue than boardgames. This series provides the company with a nice melding of two of their divisions.
For my wife and I, these puzzles take about 5 to 7 hours of work to complete. (Looking back at my capsule review from 2018: “EXIT: The puzzle – we had a lot of fun with the jigsaw puzzle part. It had been a long time since we had sat down and just done a jigsaw puzzle. Took about 14 manhours total, with breaks for homework, phone calls and life in general. We probably would have done it in a single afternoon if we had not been interrupted. The EXIT puzzle part was interesting enough and we solved it without needing any clues. For us, the ending was not awesome, but YMMV.” So, if nothing else, we’re a lot faster at putting puzzles together now!
The interior of the puzzle is challenging but fair. The main roadblock here is that you don’t have an exact picture to work from, so we often end up constructing little islands of the puzzle and then have to later figure out where these little groupings attach to the bigger picture. The outer frame also takes a little longer than normal because you have to rely solely on the art – as all the pieces fit together – and in some cases, the artwork is really quite dark, making it difficult at times to be sure you have things in the right places.
One other thing that frustrated me a little bit – though not sure if it is the puzzle or the lighting in my dining room – was that it was really difficult to see the art on the puzzle at night. When the interior lights of my dining room were shining on the puzzle pieces, the linen finish on the pieces was quite glary and reflective. It made it really difficult at times to see things, and we often had to use the flashlight on our phones to shine light at an angle across the pieces in order to see them better. It’s not a gamebreaker, but we did start to schedule time for the puzzles in the daytime when we could use the natural diffused light through the windows.
In any event, just do the jigsaw puzzle. You’ll know when you’re done when all the pieces are put into place and the artwork looks complete. At this point, it’s time to start solving the mysteries. Remember that the instruction page told you how many puzzles you would need to fine – and now you examine the artwork of the puzzle trying to discover the puzzles. If you get stuck, there is a QR code in the rules that takes you to a webpage that breaks down the different puzzles and gives you a set of tiered hints for each.
It’s great to have the hint system in place, but I would caution you to only go there when you are completely stuck. The reason for this is that the hint page will show you the different puzzles and where to find them, but it’s obviously spoiler-y. Once you’ve seen the overview picture with the location of the puzzles, you really can’t un-see it. So…. I’d recommend not looking for clues until you are truly stuck in all directions. If you think you have found a puzzle but can’t finish it, then go back to the puzzle and try to find a different one to work on. For me, a lot of the enjoyment was in trying to figure out what the puzzles were….
OK – SLIGHT SPOILER TIME – SKIP THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH AND THE PICTURE OF THE BOX OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST JIGSAW PUZZLE (>40,000 PIECES)
The thing to realize about the puzzles is that they generally come up with a number as an answer. Heck, many of the puzzles are overt formulas that you can evidently see from the artwork in the puzzles; but some of them are much more subtle. But, knowing that you have to come up with a numerical answer will help you figure out what the puzzles might be. This is only a mini spoiler, because even if you hadn’t figured this out on your own, it’s pretty much the first hint for the puzzles, so you would have been given the answer anyways.
But what to do with those number answers? I mean, where have you see those before?? So, you go through and try to find the puzzles, solve the puzzles and then figure out what to do with the answers
Admittedly, some of the puzzles have been fantastic, and well, some have been stretches (IMHO). Sometimes, the challenge in the puzzle is finding it in the first place. As the jigsaw format doesn’t allow for any other clues other than what you can see in the puzzle art, I have found that I miss about a quarter of the puzzles after my first detailed look at the puzzle. The hint system is really good, but as I mentioned earlier, using the system does end up spoiling the locations of all of them, so I like to be really stuck before I look.
In this unprecented mostly-indoor winter, my family has enjoyed the puzzles. In fact, after receiving and completing the review puzzle, we ordered three more from a certain online shop (affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3oETmPG) and did those as well.
The difficulty level is noted clearly on the box art, and what we have found is that the difficulty is in finding and interpreting the puzzle… and that being said, there was still one puzzle in the Observatory jigsaw (which is marked 2/5 in complexity) that completely stumped everyone here!
Regardless, this is a nice set of puzzles, fun and relaxing to put together with the added bonus of a little puzzle solving at the end. The puzzles, on the whole, are interesting, though at least one of the overall meta-answers was truly groan-worthy. But, don’t let that discourage you from trying them. They are great ways to pass the time, or to spend time with the family, and I would definitely recommend these for anyone who likes jigsaw puzzles.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor
We also enjoyed a couple of these. I’d like to add to your review that the answer to all the puzzles is also visual – once you found all the answers, they slot together graphically over the picture in exactly the right place too!